Imran fears conflict risk while India in election mode: FT

Updated Mar 27 2019


Prime Minister Imran Khan.— DawnNewsTV/File
Prime Minister Imran Khan.— DawnNewsTV/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said he feared another security incident with India after the two nuclear-armed countries engaged in a dangerous escalation that fuelled “war hysteria” in New Delhi ahead of elections next month.

In an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Mr Khan said tensions were still high even after the crisis over a suspected militant attack in India-occupied Kashmir had eased with the release of an Indian pilot captured by Pakistani security forces.

“I’m still apprehensive before the elections, I feel that something could happen,” Mr Khan told the newspaper.

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Pakistan and India, which have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947 over the Kashmir issue, passed through a crisis last month after India accused Pakistan of being behind a militant attack that killed 40 policemen in Pulwama, in India-held Kashmir in February.

Know more: Indian Twitter erupts in praise over Imran’s decision to release IAF pilot

Islamabad denied responsibility for the attack, which was claimed by Jaish-i Mohammed, but the attack prompted India to launch a cross-border air strike against what it claimed was a militant training camp in Pakistan.

Pakistan responded with air strikes of its own and in an ensuing dogfight over Kashmir, at least one Indian plane was shot down and its pilot was captured. The pilot was subsequently returned to India, leading to an easing in the crisis.

Mr Khan has offered to hold talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue, the latest in a long series of confrontations over Kashmir, a majority Muslim region that is claimed by both countries. However, he said Mr Modi’s government appeared to be using the tensions for electoral purposes.

“When Pulwama happened I felt that Mr Modi’s government used that to build this war hysteria,” Mr Khan told the newspaper.

“The Indian public should realise that this is all for winning the elections; it’s nothing to do with the real issues of the subcontinent.”

He repeated a denial that Pakistan was involved in the Pulwama attack and said a crackdown had been launched against militant groups.

Published in Dawn, March 27th, 2019